The Ohio Parent Teacher Association has joined the National PTA in supporting seatbelts in school buses.
The “Ohio PTA Board Position Statement: Support of Seat Belts in School Buses” was adopted by the board of directors in May and recommends that school districts initiate lap/shoulder seatbelt installation pilot programs.
“This direct action by the Ohio PTA will undoubtedly be a turning point for school bus safety in Ohio, [and] serve as a model for enhanced school bus safety in other states and will prevent injuries and save children’s lives,” Rudolph Breglia, a school bus seatbelt advocate recently told School Transportation News.
Citing various industry associations that support the implementation of seatbelts in school buses, the position statement notes that the National PTA adopted a resolution supporting legislation or regulation requiring any new school buses be equipped with seatbelts in 1998. The National PTA also encouraged school districts to implement seatbelt use, education and enforcement policies.
A year later, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that compartmentalization of high seatbacks was incomplete because it only protects students in front and rear crashes but does not account for school bus rollovers or side crashes. NTSB began recommending the occupant restraints and has continued to do so after nearly every high-profile school bus crash the agency has investigated.
In 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that lap/shoulder seatbelts reduce school bus fatalities, and in 2011 it required the safety systems for small school buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds.
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In 2015, then NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind announced a recommendation that lap/shoulder seatbelts be available to every student who rides a school bus, but the agency stopped short of requiring the occupant restraints. Currently, nine states as well as many cities and school districts require seatbelts in school buses.
Like the National PTA’s resolution, the Ohio PTA position supports state legislation to require lap/shoulder seatbelts in newly purchased school buses. Ohio PTA also encourages Ohio school districts to voluntarily pursue pilot programs when fiscally feasible that install lap/shoulder seatbelts on new bus orders, “to determine if the presence of lap/shoulder seat belts meets the safety and behavioral improvement needs of their school district for transportation of students,” the position statement reads.
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The statement adds that the additional cost of installing lap/shoulder seatbelts in new school buses has been estimated at $5 per student per year over the lifetime of the bus, which represents about 0.5 percent of the total cost of transporting one student for a full school year. Currently Ohio school districts in Avon Lake, Hudson and Beachwood have purchased lap/shoulder seatbelts in school buses.
Breglia said he hopes the Ohio PTA position will encourage school districts to conduct pilot programs of seatbelts in school buses.
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